It’s good news for riders at all levels if brands like Avio continue to put reasonably accurate, easy to use, and cheaper alternatives on the market, but reliability needs to be improved for this tool to reach its full potential.
Most competitively priced power meter we’ve seen yet
Avio is a British company that manufactures its units in the UK
A few grams heavier than its direct competitors’ pods
Our demo unit stopped working unexpectedly
When you’ve got to the point where you want to start training smarter and more effectively, one of the key pieces of equipment you’ll be looking at is a power meter.
>>> Buyer's guide to power meters
With ever-raging discussion about riding to power in the professional peloton and an increasing number of training programmes based around FTP (functional threshold power), watts are high on many riders’ agendas.
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But for the everyday cyclist price can be a major barrier to ramping up performance.
One of the brands offering a cheaper way to break into the world of watts is Oxford-based Avio.
Having developed its power meters in rowing, the brand has now moved into the cycling sphere with the PowerSense range.
There are a few variations of the Avio meters, with Shimano 105 and Ultegra left-crank options as well as a dual-sided Ultegra chainset.
Avio also offers a DIY option, where riders can buy a single PowerSense power meter and fit it at home using a supplied fitting kit and an online tutorial.
Or you can also send your own crank arm away to Avio to have a meter fitted.
The first thing to say about the PowerSense is the price.
Avio says it has designed the range to help amateur riders get professional and reliable equipment on a lower budget than other brands, and Avio undercuts market leaders Stages and 4iiii with its pricing.
It goes without saying that the Ultegra single-sided power meter we tested will be less accurate than dual sided, and that goes for all brands of power meter, but Avio says its tech ensures a two per cent accuracy level. This is a touch lower than the 4iiii model, which claims one per cent.
The Avio is also on the slightly heavier when compared with the lightest on the market. PowerSense is 25g added to the weight of the crank arm, while the equivalent Stages power meter is around 20g and the 4iiii, the lightest on the market, at just 9g.
Battery life is another point where the Avio has sacrificed performance in favour of value, as the PowerSense has a 100-hour span, compared with 200 hours for the Stages and 120 for the 4iiii.
We have been testing the Ultegra left crank version of the Powersense, which retails for £319. You can upgrade to the dual-sided Ultegra version for £380, or get the 105 left crank at £299 and the DIY option just £225 including the fitting kit, which includes a 10-litre water carrier and cable to calibrate it plus the epoxy adhesive and associated equipment for bonding it to the crank arm.
The calibration process for our factory-fitted Avio PowerSense using a Garmin Edge 520 was as simple as could be imagined and of course fitting the Ultegra crank arm itself was also quick and easy.
From our tests the Avio ran a few watts higher compared to power meters we know to be accurate, but remained consistent within itself, which lets you measure and compare your own efforts – even if it does make you look stronger on Strava a little unfairly.
Aside from the minor footnotes, the Avio PowerSense was a reliable tool for the first two months of use, but unfortunately things did go downhill from there.
While riding I noticed the device was dropping in and out, with power dropping to zero inexplicably.
Figuring this was a low battery issue, I set about trying to resolve the problem but was unable to.
Eventually the Avio PowerSense cut out completely and would not turn on, leaving me without a meter or any easy chance of a fix. I'm still not sure what caused the issue.
Prior to that the Avio PowerSense had shown no signs of dropping out at key moments, and it wasn't prone to the superhuman false spikes in power that hamper even some of the most expensive models.
We contacted Avio and co-founder Mike Devaney had this to say: “The unit had has been through 10 or 15 shops. A few people ride it at every shop and it’s been on loads of different bikes and whereas we’re not excusing it, it’s got old software and we’ve made loads of changes since. That unit had been absolutely pillaged, which is a good thing because when we get it back we can find out how it’s stood the test of time, but there’s only so much we can do.”
It's worth noting that Avio does offer customers a two-year “quibble free” warranty.
Avio have since sent out a replacement meter and we've had no problems at all, running reliably for the last two months.
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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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